Our baby daughter, Eloise, turns one on Sunday. The past year has been tiring, wacky, joyous, boring, momentous, difficult and amazing. Being mama to Eloise has been horribly wonderful and wonderfully horrible. Because babies are easy… except when they are not.
This inherent contrariness makes parenting a baby so fantastic and so awful at the same time. This clash makes them seem loveable even when they do something disgusting. This innate conflict is why we find everything stupendously hard the first time round and then try for a second baby a short time later. Babies are a paradox.
For instance, a newborn is tiny but she takes up so much space in your life. I mean, how much washing is there? It just never ends. And how much stuff do you take with you just to get out the door?
It is also so strange how unfamiliar a newborn is, but how you cannot remember what your world was like before she arrived. She is exactly how you pictured her, even though you didn’t actually have an image in your head.
These baby mysteries extend further – where does all the time go? How come time seems to have gone so fast even though some days were so looooooonnnng, they seemed to last forever. Being awake at 2am does give that impression.
And when she sleeps badly overnight, how come she does not sleep well during the day too? Surely she would want to nap more? Oh, and the most perplexing thing of all when it comes to sleep – how is an inadvertent two minute car nap the same as a two hour sleep in her actual cot?
How on earth are the car keys or TV remote control so much more desirable than an actual baby toy? How does she discern the difference at such a young age?
Babies are soft yet so strong, cry one minute and laugh the next, and do the most enormous bowel movements yet smell divine. It’s all so baffling.
No matter what babies do, it seems super cute. If older children or adults did these things you would probably find it quite rude or revolting. Eloise has taken to pointing to other people’s food to try and solicit a bite. This is met with people kindly offering a morsel to her. They simply can’t resist. If she starts a game of ‘raspberry’ – putting her tongue between her lips and blowing to make a sound – then not only does she spray everyone within a three feet radius, but they all want to join in. And don’t get me started on bodily functions. I would challenge anyone not to smile when they hear any baby pass gas.
Babies are also super cute with things that are deemed easy. How incredible is it to see a baby in a peaceful slumber? Bonus points if she is in a front pack at a busy park or market.
And if none of that seems cute enough for you, then get your baby to wear adult size clothing like hats, shoes or sunglasses. There is something so innately confusing about large clothes on a tiny baby. It seems right and wrong at the same time.
What is the root cause of this paradox? Why are babies wonderfully horrible and revoltingly cute? I have a fun theory that is likely to be wildly off the mark, but here goes…
Maybe it is because babies are better than us adults but we don’t want to acknowledge it. After all, we take care of them. We are the parents. But babies effortlessly do all the things that we are told makes life special and worthwhile. Things like smiling, being present and having courage come naturally to babies, but are sometimes hard for us.
The other day there was a little spider crawling across the floor near Eloise. It brought home all the things that Eloise is better at than me, including:
- Marveling at nature and being curious
- Being in the present moment
- Being fearless (trying to pick up the spider)
- Using both hands (to pick it up)
- Trying new things (she also tried to eat the spider)
- A single minded focus (nothing was distracting her from getting that spider)
A Ton of Smiles
The number one thing that Eloise does better than me – in fact, better than anyone I know – is spreading joy. Did you know that babies smile or laugh around 300 times per day, and I am sure Eloise keeps this average high. She smiles at strangers in the supermarket, shows delight at the slightest interaction and makes others laugh with her charm. She shows off her great big toothy grin freely, unreservedly and without any expectation. What happens, of course, is she elicits an absolute ton of smiles back.
Happy 1st Birthday Eloise. I hope you keep the best of your baby traits as you grow, particularly your cheerful nature. My wish is that you are always the recipient of a ton of smiles.